Course Title and Description Guidelines

The following guidelines have been developed in conjunction with the Registrar’s office to facilitate the selection of appropriate course titles and descriptions and to ensure consistency in the USF catalog.

Course Title Guidelines

The purpose of the course title is to provide multiple audiences with a snapshot of what a course is about. Those audiences include current and prospective students, prospective employers, accrediting bodies, other academic institutions, and various other audiences inside and outside of the University.

The course title should be brief and general and should accurately portray the subject matter covered in the course. Keep in mind that the course title is often the first source of information about a class but it is not the only one; when choosing classes, students can also review the course description, which is where information about course content can be provided.

In developing course titles, please follow these guidelines:

  • Use no more than 30 characters, including spaces. Banner, the University’s student information system, limits course titles to 30 characters or less. This ensures that transcripts are legible and each course exists on one line only.
  • Capitalize each word of the title except for articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or), or prepositions (on, at, to).
  • Use English language unless the course is approved to be offered (instructed) in another language.
  • Numbers appearing in course titles should be written in Roman numerals (not Arabic numerals).
  • Course titles should not include designations such as "CD" or "SL" or "Core E," which can instead be found by searching the course schedule.
  • If words must be abbreviated, make sure the reader easily understands them.
  • The subject code (the three or four letters that appear before the course number) will describe the context for the course; adding the subject in the title is redundant and often takes up a large portion of a course’s title. It can be presumed that the subject matter of the course will be related to the discipline or department offering it.
  • Don’t include verbs that can be accounted for in the course description. These take up space and are less important than the actual subject of the course.

    For example, one might wish to name a course: "The History of Harry Potter and Magic through the 18th Century in Great Britain." Trying to keep it short, one might try abbreviating words, resulting in: "Hist HarPot/Mag 18th Cent in GB." However, that is nearly impossible to decipher. Since the course is taught in the History Department, and since students can read the century and region context in the course description, a more effective title is simply: "Harry Potter and Magic."

Course Description Guidelines

The purpose of the course description is to provide multiple audiences with a concise explanation of the content of a course. Those audiences include current and prospective students, prospective employers, accrediting bodies, other academic institutions, and various other audiences inside and outside of the University.

In developing course descriptions, please follow these guidelines:

  • Use 300 characters or less, including spaces. This ensures that complete catalog descriptions will display on the course description page within the catalog without viewers having to click through to see the full description. Further elaborations can be made within course syllabi as well as in program documents disseminated to students and others.
  • Proceed from the general to the specific. First describe the broader concepts and move into specific topics at the conclusion of the description.
  • Keep the description focused on the content of the course only. Include only what the course will cover not what the course may cover. Avoid using sentences that begin with "Topics may include…"
  • Do not include prerequisites, corequisites, restrictions, or special designations in the course description. These are listed elsewhere in the catalog and often change, generating inconsistencies between the course description and what is listed in Banner, the University’s student information system.
  • Avoid rhetorical questions and discipline-specific wording that may be confusing to prospective students.
  • Do not include information that may change over time such as textbooks, software packages, references to specific social media sites, etc.
  • Do not include information that would be included in advising, such as "This course is great for students who are considering a career in alchemy."
  • Write in the present tense (e.g., "Students learn to cast spells").
  • Double check that the description is grammatically correct and does not contain spelling errors.
  • An example of an effective course description:

    HIST 100: Harry Potter and Magic. In this introductory course, students learn about the history of magic in Great Britain through the 18th century. Political, social, and religious history are covered. Special emphasis will be placed on Voldemort’s rise to power during the Black Magic Decade.